MANILA, Philippines — Shun unlawful orders and tell the truth.
PNP Director General Alan Purisima reminded policemen of these basic tenets as the 148,000-strong force prepared to mark its 22nd anniversary on Sunday, under a new brand: “Serbisyong Makatotohanan (Genuine Service).”
Earlier, Purisima announced the filing of administrative cases against all the policemen who took part in the controversial police operation in Atimonan, Quezon, on Jan. 6 that resulted in the killing of 13 people.
“We sympathize with the noncommissioned officers who were among those charged in connection with the Atimonan incident,” Purisima said on Thursday. But he added that it was not enough to just follow orders—these had to be legal and legitimate orders.
Citing the findings of the PNP Internal Affairs Service, Purisima said the policemen violated operational procedures when they set up the checkpoint that led to a supposed shootout with a group of alleged guns for hire and gambling lords.
After an initial investigation, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was quoted as saying that it was “definitely not a shootout.” There has been a speculation it was a rubout instigated by policemen linked to a rival gambling syndicate.
Thirteen of the 22 policemen involved in the Atimonan event were noncommissioned officers, or those with a rank of Senior Police Officer 4 or lower.
“We know that they just followed the orders of their superiors. This incident should serve as a lesson that when they follow orders from their commanders, make sure that they only follow legal orders,” the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief said.
The argument that they were ‘just following orders’ would not absolve them from administrative or criminal actions if those orders turn out to be illegal, he stressed.
If found guilty, the policemen may be dropped from the PNP rolls, face criminal charges and lose all financial benefits due them as government employees.
The PNP chief said the only way for the police personnel to extricate themselves from the situation was for them to disclose what really happened in Atimonan.
Said Purisima: “They were recruited into the police service because they are bright and upright. We have our own legal process and truth is always their best defense.”
Purisima, who held key posts at the municipal, provincial and regional police levels prior to his designation as the country’s top cop, expressed the hope that the Atimonan shooting would serve as an eye-opener for the police to improve their performance.
Charged in connection with the Atimonan case were SPO3 Joselito de Guzman, Senior Police Officers 1 Claro Cataquiz Jr. and Arturo Sarmiento, Police Officers 3 Benedict Dimayuga and Eduardo Oronan, Police Officers 2 Ronnie Serdena, Esperidion Corpuz, Nelson Indal and Al Bhazar Jailani, and Police Officers 1 Wryan Sardea, Rodel Talento, Allen Ayobo and Esperidion de Leon.
Also facing administrative charges were seven senior police officers — Supt. Hansel Marantan, the ground commander of the operation; Chief Insp. Grant Gollod; Supt. Ramon Balauag; Senior Insp. John Paulo Carracedo; and Inspectors Timoteo Orig, Ferdinand Aguilar and Evaristo San Juan.
Among those killed in the shooting was Victor “Vic” Siman, a suspected operator of the illegal numbers game “jueteng” in Laguna and Batangas.
Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas will lead the celeberation of the 22nd anniversary of the 148,000-strong police force, on Monday.
After the weekly flag-raising ceremony at Camp Crame, Purisima will present to Roxas the PNP’s annual accomplishment report.
The two officials will also join families of policemen killed during police operations in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Bantayog ng mga Bayaning Tagapamayapa, also at Camp Crame.